Matthew 5:17-19: Has the Law Been Fulfilled?

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ORIGINALLY POSTED 12 JANUARY, 2010

MATTHEW 5:17-19 – ENGLISH

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (KJV).

Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (RSV).

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (NASU).

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (NIV).

Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete. Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah– not until everything that must happen has happened. So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven (CJB/CJSB).

MATTHEW 5:17-19 – GREEK[1]

Mē nomisēte hoti ēlthon katalusai ton nomon ē tous prophētas ouk ēlthon katalusai alla plērōsai. Amēn gar legō humin heōs an parelthē ho ouranos kai hē gē, iōta hen ē mia keraia ou mē parelthē apo tou nomou, heōs an panta genētai. Hos ean oun lusē mian tōn entolōn toutōn tōn elachistōn kai didaxē houtōs tous anthrōpous, elachistos klēthēsetai en tē basileia tōn ouranōn hos d’ an poiēsē kai didaxē, houtos megas klēthēsetai en tē basileia tōn ouranōn.

Matthew 5:17-19, which preface the Sermon on the Mount which follows, are some of the most important verses of the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) for today’s Messianic movement. These verses speak of the Messiah’s intent to fulfill, and not abolish, the Mosaic Law. But what does it mean that the Messiah was to come and fulfill the Law? Does it just pertain, as is commonly thought, to the prophetic agenda of accomplishment that is realized by the Messiah’s arrival? Or, is there a multi-layered dynamic of the Messiah’s coming to “fulfill” the Torah, which must be taken into consideration? Has the Law been “fulfilled and thus abolished,” as many people today conclude? If this is in error, then what might need to be corrected in some Believers’ view of the Torah?

Immediately prior to stating that His intention is to fulfill the Law, Yeshua has told His audience that they are the light of the world, responsible for spreading light to all in the world (Matthew 5:14-15). The Lord says, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16), and He proceeds to speak on how His ministry has come to fulfill the Torah. The Sermon on the Mount itself is deeply rooted within the instruction of the Torah and Tanach, the Old Testament; it either expands and deepens principles originally given by Moses and the Prophets, or clarifies some First Century misunderstandings of their teachings. Nowhere do we see in Matthew chs. 5-7 any kind of explicit denial of the relevance and supernatural inspiration of the Tanach Scriptures. On the contrary, now that the Messiah has arrived, their importance for guiding men and women of faith into greater holiness is only intensified.

Various evangelical Christians today, who read Yeshua’s Sermon on the Mount, admittedly struggle when they encounter Matthew 5:17-19. The Messiah’s explicit claim in coming to fulfill, and not abolish His Father’s Instruction in the Torah, is something that they wrestle with. Much of today’s contemporary Christian theology has asserted that at best, the Law of Moses was something for a previous era, and it is not something that has continued validity in the post-resurrection age. Is this a conclusion that aligns with the Messiah’s own words on the matter? Thankfully, there are Christians today who do believe that the Mosaic Law has various decrees of validity for New Covenant Believers, and will recognize that the contemporary Church’s widescale dismissal of the Torah has not at all aided it. Some kind of return and re-appreciation of the Torah needs to be enacted.

Yet even while many Christians will agree in principle that the smallest stroke of the Torah is to not lose importance—how are we to uphold its authority? Does it mean that Believers are to follow more than just the Ten Commandments, and other ethical and moral statutes? Does it mean that commandments typically classified as being “ceremonial” should be considered relevant too? What does it mean that those who teach from the Torah will be considered “great” in the Kingdom of God?

These three short verses have been responsible for convicting many of today’s Believers that they need to reconsider prior positions held about the Law of Moses. The Holy Spirit has used Matthew 5:17-19 to convict many evangelical Christians to return to a foundational understanding of the Torah, leading them into the Messianic movement and setting them on a course of wider Torah obedience. Many Messianic Jews, especially if they were raised in a liberal Reform Judaism, have also been stimulated by the thrust of Matthew 5:17-19, to take the Torah and their Jewish heritage a bit more seriously (especially in lieu of their possible testimony to fellow Jewish family members, and the false belief that believing in Jesus means that one’s Jewishness gets jettisoned).

Like many of today’s Messianics, I believe that the Torah remains relevant instruction for God’s people today. I believe that part of being salt and light to the world (Matthew 5:13-16) means being Torah obedient as the Messiah was Torah obedient—foremost in how we love others. Yet, our Messianic faith community probably throws Matthew 5:17-19 around a little too much, without really probing what it directs Messiah followers to understand. I think it is appropriate that we take a closer look at Yeshua’s teaching on the validity of the Torah, not only recognizing how He emphasizes its ongoing importance, but that we engage with the array of opinions present in current Matthean scholarship. Is it possible that we have overlooked, over-emphasized, or under-emphasized any of the various dimensions in how our Savior “fulfills” the Torah?

Click here for the complete version of “Matthew 5:17-19: Has the Law Been Fulfilled?”

Matthew_5_17-19_Has_the_Law_Been_Fulfilled_NTVT_MAX


reproduced from The New Testament Validates Torah MAXIMUM EDITION

Today’s broad Messianic movement is of the conviction that the Torah or Law of Moses is relevant instruction for God’s people in the post-resurrection era. This is a conviction firmly rooted within the teaching of Yeshua the Messiah, who explicitly said that He did not come to abolish or eliminate the Torah (Matthew 5:17-19). Yet throughout much of Christian history, and even more so today, many theologians and examiners have argued that Moses’ Teaching has been rendered inoperative, and/or that it was only to be followed by those in the pre-resurrection era. Many of today’s Messianic people, while having a witness of the Spirit that God’s commandments are to be written on their hearts and minds via the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27), are not equipped well enough to answer common arguments delivered by evangelical Protestant family members, friends, acquaintances, or even various pastors or teachers that they know—when they quote verses to them from the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament), in support of the premise that the Torah of Moses has been abolished.

The New Testament Validates Torah is a massive resource that all of today’s Messianic Believers need, especially in the current season of growth, development, and expansion in which our faith community finds itself. This publication is an extensive compilation of data across the wide range of books and commentaries available from Messianic Apologetics. The core of this resource is an examination of fifty passages, which are commonly used as proof texts to claim that the Torah is not to be followed by God’s people today. Statements such as not being “under the Law” (Romans 6:14-15), “Christ is the end of the Law” (Romans 10:4), “All things are lawful” (1 Corinthians 6:12), ‘how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things” (Galatians 4:9), “abolishing…the Law of commandments contained in ordinances” (Ephesians 2:15), “having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14), and even “Thus He declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:19)—among many—are thoroughly addressed. Considerable attention is given to various Hebrew and Greek issues, potential translation differences, and differences of perspective. Cross-examination and discussion with a wide number of commentators have also been offered, as well as an exploration of important subjects present within today’s Biblical Studies.

The New Testament Validates Torah is an important apologetic study that will benefit Messianic Believers and evangelical Christians alike. There is literally nothing in today’s Messianic movement that has compiled and packed as much information on Torah relevance for God’s people into a single book. Also, unlike some other publications issued on the message of Torah relevance, The New Testament Validates Torah is highly respectful to Protestant voices over the centuries who have valued what they have considered to be the “moral law” of the Old Testament, and seeks to fairly honor those who have preceded us in the faith, establishing common ground where possible.

762 pages

3 Comments

  1. what I’ve been taught is that Yeshua fulfilled the Law and He was born under the Law and speaking to those under the Law. The New covenant began at His death and those Who have accepted His Sacrifice have The Holy Spirit living within and our old man was crucified with Him on the cross. We have been given a new nature and The Holy Spirit lives In and through us as we trust and rest in Him. And if we walk according to the flesh, even our good works are as filthy rags. If we walk by The Spirit, we trust and rest in His finished work and as a result, we bare fruit. I’m told that we walk by The Spirit and not by works of The Law now since Yeshua is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

  2. Thank you, I will do that. I’ve been confused for years. Something else I hear is “my righteousness is not up to me. It’s by TheHoly Spirit”. Perhaps after I read the verses and the article you suggested, I will be less confused.

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